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Growing Up

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  3,756 ratings  ·  170 reviews
This Pulitzer Prize-winner is "the saddest, funniest, most tragical yet comical picture of coming of age in the U.S.A. in the Depresson years and World War II that has ever been written."—Harrison Salisbury.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 2nd 1992 by Signet (first published January 1st 1982)
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I found a paperback edition of this book, yellow with age. A note from my mother, age 97 and suffering from dementia fell out from between the pages. She said it was full of charm and humor and recommended it. She was right. Russell Baker had a hardscrabble childhood. His father's people were Virginians; rural people. Education was not a family tradition, though Russell's mother always insisted that he "make something of himself." This man was a great storyteller. He makes ordinary life events s ...more
Feb 10, 2007 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book in the 10th grade for a school project and fell in love. Funny, warm, witty--an absolute joy to read. Russel Baker is best known for writing a column in the NY Times called Poor Russel's Almanac, and Growing Up is a memoir about his own childhood growing up in 1930's America. He is a real-life Charlie Brown, who looks back upon his own bumblings and foibles with humor and grace. It is one of my father's favorite books as well, and I feel that pretty much anyone with half a heart ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Elle rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
If you are going to write an autobiography, it helps to live through an interesting time. Russell Baker did. He was born in 1925. He was a kid during the Great Depression. He was a young man during World War II. I cannot think of a sweeter set-up for a life full of stories.

Yet nothing interesting ever happened to him!

With the exception of a few mild characters he met along the way, his formative years were not remarkable. After reading Growing Up, I can see why. Baker took no interest in the wo
Growing Up by Russell Baker

As with many of the books in my “want to read” list I’ve already read this book and because I liked it so much I wanted to be sure to say so in a review. I remember Russell Baker from Masterpiece Theater. I always liked his low key manner and humor. So when I saw this Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir I wanted to read it. Baker’s mother was a major figure in his life and this story. She was a strong woman and would not accept laziness or failure which was a good thing for
Edward Huang
The memoir, Growing Up written by an outstanding author named Russel Baker, takes the readers to a nostalgic journey of his life as a curious young boy living in the rural Virginia to a determined writer. The memoir starts from a scene of his eighty years old mother (lying down in the hospital bed); despite being an energetic women in the early days and being a strong advocate of feminism, she has grown old and become senile. By looking at his senile mother, Russel recognizes human infirmity and ...more
I first came across an excerpt from this memoir in a seventh grade literature book. Turns out, that excerpt happens to be one of the most lively sections of the memoir. Baker's book made its way onto my independent reading list for 9-10th grade students, so I found it at a sale and picked it up to read myself. It's an "okay" biography and Baker is a pleasant companion, but I wonder how much today's high school students will identify with this boy-to-man equivalent of Wonder Bread. He's certainly ...more
Megan Laird
Russell Baker details the story of his and his mother's struggle during the difficult times of the Great Depression. His mother married a man whose mother was unapproving of the marriage. After Baker's father suddenly passes at a young age from diabetes, leaving his mother with him and his two other siblings. With Lucy, Russell’s mother, being the head of the household, she is forced to work to take care of her family. However, she cannot seem to contract a job due to the dawn of the Great Depre ...more
Russel Baker's style of writing doesn't confuse us with large impressive words. However, he does keep us interested. I found myself unable to put this book down. Baker takes us through the journey of his life. The good, bad, the sad, and the exciting. This is a book that everyone can relate to.
A great biography about an American childhood. I am trying to avoiding writing the words, "hearkens back to a more innocent time," but I've not had enough coffee today to come up with something better. Baker's book Good Times, about his days as a reporter, is also wonderful.
This is one of the best memoirs I have ever read - a true American experience lived by Mr. Baker as well as my parents.
A lovely book. I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this wonderful memoir, from the clashes between Russell Baker's strong-willed mother and grandmother, to the love that sustained him during the depths of the Depression. Having lived on the Northern Neck of Virginia (where Baker's mother was born and grew up), the upper Shenandoah Valley (where Baker was born and spent his earliest years), and northern New Jersey (where Baker lived from about age 5 to age 14), the book resonated with me. The hero ...more
Shelley Kresan
Memoir/Autobiography is my favorite genre. I get to meet so many people that are so different from myself in values and temperament, likes and dislikes, political philosophy and the like. In this, Russell Baker is definitely on the other side of the spectrum than myself -- except for the fact that I can't sell a worm to a bird either. I hate bugging people.

I really enjoyed his writing style and the undercurrent of humor that was always present. Mr. Baker's writing isn't always technically correc
This book reminded me that autobiographies don't have to be the literary equivalent of a self-absorbed first date who won't shut the hell up about themselves and just enjoy the god damned meal. Sure Russell Baker glorifies himself a bit (we get it, your smart.) but who wouldn't in their autobiography? Actually, he even makes himself out to be kindof a pussy during his courtship with his wife (I'm sorry, but what a fuckin tramp.), not sure if that was intentional. But, I'll hand it to him, he is ...more
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I read this book in four-page increments after my morning Honey Bunches of Oats, and, at first, it seemed to make a lot of memoir mistakes: consistent cliche, not much effort to transform the details of a single life into wider understanding of life-itself/people/Baltimore/whatever.

But then the details of that single life (and then, notably, that unsingle life) got better and the book started to fly. One of its chapters is a great example of a beginning-of-a-relationship essay, as Baker recalls
Nicole Glaser
Baker is a great storyteller. His journalistic talents shine through as he narrates about his own impoverished upbringing. You feel for him and as a mother you really appreciate what your own parents have gone through to raise you. I can’t imagine having to go through some of the things he has, but he had me crying one minute and laughing the next. Book Pairing: Growing Up by Russell Baker
Baker, Russell. Growing Up. New York : Congdon & Weed : Distributed by St. Martin's Press, ©1982.
In orde
I decided to read this book after I read a recommendation of it, and I'm happy I did so. Though I did find it as "laugh out loud" funny as the recommender (in The Week Magazine), I did find it humorous and sincere, with a lot of really interesting personal anecdotes. It's written almost conversationally, casually, and it almost has a feeling to it as if you were sitting on the floor listening to Russell Baker tell the stories of his life from a rocking chair by the fire. It's got that sort of wa ...more
A good-humored, wise man wrote this book about the first part of his life. It was not easy (his life, that is). This is a heartwarming , book, absolutely without rancor and full of love for many people who helped the author through some fairly hard knocks. Not about world-shaking events. It probably helps a reader of this book to be familiar with Baker's columns in the NY Times. I've read two bound volumes of them, treasured. Recommend especially for aspiring journalists and writers.
Michael Alan Grapin
This is an autobiography by Russell Baker that actually begins before he was born. In truth it's as much a biography of his mother as it is about him growing up during the depression, attending college against all odds, becoming a pilot while the second world war comes to a conclusion, becoming a newspaper man, meeting the love of his life against his mother's approval and so is a poignant struggle made all the more extraordinary by just how ordinary it was. I found it thoroughly engag ...more
All the ingredients are here for a lively, interesting read. A child growing up during the depression, a family trying to make ends meet. A real page turner, right? Well….
It’s not often someone writes an autobiography that virtually stops at the age of 18. Besides books, Russell growing up had no particular interests. So this reads kind of like an episode of Seinfeld. I won’t say it’s about nothing, but if you expect big cosmic revelations you’re going to be disappointed.
As can happen with a boo
Robin Thomas
A boy, Russell Baker, growing up during the depression. Interesting, funny, and sad all at once.
Some favorite passages:
"For the longest time I thought of Republicans as people who rose from 12-hour stretches in bed to denounce idlers and then lie down with a good book."
"He's not tough, he just needs a shave."
"The teenager, like the atomic bomb, was still uninvented."
Bev Wall
Once again, I read this book for a Memoir Writing class that I was taking in grad school. This one I didn't particularly like for various reasons. As a matter of fact, I didn't finish it. Life is way to short to read bad books, don't you think? Russell Baker used to work for the Baltimore Sun, my hometown paper. He went on to join the New York Times where he wrote political columns. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Growing Up, but I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps it's because he is pretty goo ...more
Susan Spring Wenzel
Thank you Janis for telling me about this book. I loved it! I enjoyed reading about life during the depression and World War II. It was fun to hear a slice of life back then. It was amazing what families had to do back then to survive. I love how families took each other in and cared for them. What dedication that young boy had to get up each morning at 4 a.m. to deliver his papers! What really pleased me was to read the authors bio at the end and find out the book was a Pulitzer Prize winner! N ...more
Sandy Carmichael
Enjoyed this autobiography. The timeline was between WWI and WWII, and gave a look at the Depression years with a more humane outlook than many books about that time period. Heartwarming and funny without dousing out truth.
Crystal Erickson
I bought this at a yard sale. Took it home and read it in one day...loved it. Witty ,engaging and honest, I felt a kinship with his characters and loved his prose. A must read.
Had to read it for school--Found the writing to be entertaining, funny, and poignant. Found an amazing quote on every page. A really enjoyable read.
Heartwarming, heartbreaking, he gives such a vivid picture of the times. Helped me understand what my family endured.
Good book that gives another view/experience of the Great Depression and World War II that involves one of moving around with his mom and she tries to establish herself after his father's death. It is a less harsher view of the time period, though still describing issues/problems that occurred during it.

A lesson on the author's writing style would be interesting to do. Baker writes in a personal, yet relatable manner. Students can also write about "expectations" that their parents have for them
Although I'd heard of Russell Baker, I'd never read any of his works before this. I was charmed by the tales of his mom and all uncles, aunts and assorted relatives, and also enjoyed the depictions of himself as a sort of aimless slacker kid (who obviously "made it" later in life).

Surprised that this book won a Pulitzer Prize...his writing is not that tight (i.e., he repeats thoughts, phrases and words an awful lot). The stories and characters, though, are entertaining. I especially liked the de
I really give this book 3.5 stars...
This was an easy read. It is a simple autobiography/memoir about a boy's childhood during the Great Depression. It was interesting to me to see how much things have changed since then in terms of gender expectations, discipline, and societal norms. On the other hand, there is a fundamental quality of childhood that Baker captures that hasn't changed a bit over the decades, which is why the book is rather delightful. This was a fun book, but definitely not a mo
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On August 14, 1925, US journalist, humorist and biographer Russell Baker was born in Loudoun County, Virginia. His father died early on and his hard-working mother reared him and his sisters during the Great Depression. Baker managed to get himself into Johns Hopkins University, where he studied journalism.

Baker’s wit as a humorist has been compared with that of Mark Twain. “The only thing I was f
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“After that [father's death] I never cried with any real conviction, nor expected much of anyone's God except indifference, nor loved deeply without fear that it would cost me dearly in pain. At the age of five I had become a skeptic and began to sense that any happiness that came my way might be the prelude to some grim cosmic joke.” 2 likes
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